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Ulster unrest Unionist politicians condemn loyalist rioting in Belfast and Derry

Riots erupted in Belfast and Derry this week as loyalist tensions rise across Northern Ireland

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 Around 100 people had gathered Friday evening, when bricks, bottles and fireworks were thrown at police. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Around 100 people had gathered Friday evening, when bricks, bottles and fireworks were thrown at police. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Around 100 people had gathered Friday evening, when bricks, bottles and fireworks were thrown at police. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Unionist politicians have slammed he violence which erupted in Belfast last night which saw eight police officers injured and seven people arrested.

Petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and masonry were thrown at police last night as rioting returned to the streets of the city.

Protests had been arranged on social media across Northern Ireland as tensions in the loyalist community, a community already angered by the Northern Ireland protocol situation following Brexit, rose to fever pitch after the decision of the PPS during the week not to prosecute 24 Sinn Fein members in attendance at the funeral of party member Bobby Storey for breaching Covid-19 regulations last summer.

DUP MLA, Christopher Stalford, who has a constituency office in the Sandy Row area asked people to “abide by the law”.

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Police also came under attack on consecutive nights in loyalist areas of Derry

Police also came under attack on consecutive nights in loyalist areas of Derry

Police also came under attack on consecutive nights in loyalist areas of Derry

In reference to the PPS decision made earlier in the week, and the attendance of Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill who was present at the funeral, he added: “Given the actions of the deputy First Minister, some may think that it’s all right to break Covid guidance in relation to public gatherings – that is not the case.”

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said the rioting was a “huge error” and “must not be repeated”.

He added: “I would say to anybody who was involved in taking part, or indeed planning, what happened yesterday, you are making a huge strategic mistake. Tell me any time that street violence has advanced the cause that you purport to support.”

While violence mainly erupted in the Shaftesbury Square and Donegall Road areas, sources in the nearby Sandy Row area voiced their deep frustration about the violence to SundayWorld.com this morning.

One said: “There is a lot of anger from locals that these kids were coming from different areas into Sandy Row just looking for trouble. This violence should never have happened, nobody wanted it.

“There is a lot of anger among loyalists in the area about the PSNI and the PPS and the protocol, that cannot be denied, but any protest was supposed to be peaceful.

“These kids didn’t even know if they were rioting about the Irish Sea border, the chief constable or Rangers winning the 55. They haven’t a clue.”

Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann, Doug Beattie, posted on Twitter in response to reports of the violence.

He said: ‘Stop please. This is not going to help anyone or change anything. It damages and endangers your own community, it undermines any grievance you might have and it will achieve nothing.’

His party leader, Steve Aiken, UUP MLA for South Antrim, said: ‘Please stop this violence, it will not achieve anything, and undermines the legitimate concerns that you have and is damaging our own communities.’

Other politicians echoed Unionist calls to end the violence.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey condemned what he called “running skirmishes between young people and the PSNI”.

He added: “It is always sad to see young people being used by sinister elements to advance their regressive agenda.”

He also accused the DUP and Unionism of “failing unionist working class communities” through “dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric”.

A spokesperson for the Police Federation of Northern Ireland also voiced the organisation’s anger at the pressures being faced by police officers given the current political turmoil in Northern Ireland.

They said: ‘Once again the workings of political flux in Northern Ireland results in our PSNI colleagues being attacked.

‘No excuse for violence and condemnation across the political spectrum would be welcome.’

In recent evenings there has also been violence on the streets of Derry.

It is understood the unrest began on the same day as the PPS decision not to prosecute Sinn Fein politicians over the Storey funeral was announced,

Anti-PSNI and Northern Ireland protocol graffiti has appeared in the small loyalist enclaves of the city and on consecutive nights violence erupted in the Waterside areas of Lincoln Courts and in the Tullyalley area on the outskirts of Derry.

Like in Belfast, it is understood most of those involved in the violence were youths.

Petrol bombs were thrown at the police, who also seized 15 prepared petrol bombs on Wednesday.

During the disturbances wheelie bins were set alight in the middle of roads, while a digger parked at a construction site was burned and the Fire Service were attacked when they responded to the incident.

DUP MLA for Foyle, Gary Middleton, said that frustrations in the city should only be expressed in a “democratic and peaceful way. That’s the only way we are going to achieve anything”.

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